The White 'Denial' Of Institutional Racism
by Jason Kaye
Ever notice the people who often declare racism dead are white.
In the 80's, when the typical white-suburban family would cram into a station-wagon for a summer road-trip as the Griswold's famously did in the 1983 movie, "National Lampoon's Vacation;" it was guaranteed at least once that Mom or Dad would pull-into a gas station or restaurant asking for directions. Back then, if someone was to say to your white parents, "Be careful. That's a Black neighborhood," often the first two-thoughts that came to mind were dangerous and dirty. When that same person would say, "That's a White neighborhood," we were taught as children to assume the unknown area was safe and there would be no need to roll-up the windows and lock the doors.
The era of Internet access and smartphones has not made the majority of Caucasians any less ignorant or judgmental. Just because you live in an area filled with white-faces and spacious homes it doesn't deter psychopaths like Tony Soprano from living down the street. In North Jersey where I grew up, during the 80's-90's we had plenty of families living in town with strong-ties to organized crime; instead of the Sopranos' we had the Pontes.'
An unfortunate but familiar scenario, I have witnessed at traffic-lights is when you see a young-black male in a luxury-vehicle playing a type of music that is perceived as being bothersome and the unspoken communication that takes place between white people. They often nod-their-heads and roll-their-eye's jumping to the singular conclusion that he must be a drug-dealer because their bigotry blinds them to the point where they cannot comprehend his individual abilities to excel at a career enabling him to afford the car; and feel as a society we would all be better off if everyone just stayed in their lane.
These are also the same folks who would emphatically swear-up-and-down they are not racists and whole-heartedly believe we live in a post-racial society because of the existence of Affirmative Action and the country can now check-off its to-do-list of having its first black president.
Someone living a privileged life that calls a black teenager a thug, especially an adolescent they never interacted with is the same thing as calling him the N-word. Nowadays, out-in-public instead of calling a neighborhood black many people will mention the area is ghetto. It's all semantics.
The kids in the white neighborhoods are doing just as much drugs as the kids in the black neighborhoods yet there is a presumption of guilt that young black America is often up to no good. (1 in 3 black men can expect to go to prison in his lifetime.) A crowd of grungy white-men with long-hair smoking weed are regularly viewed as 'harmless hippies' yet a group of clean-cut young black-men smoking pot are often perceived as deceitful 'thugs.'
Aggressive policing tactics are rarely implemented in predominantly white communities and if a Caucasian adolescent does get arrested the majority of the white parents can afford to obtain high-profile lawyers to methodically pick apart the case against their clients to either get all the charges dropped or plea-down to probation with no jail time even in some cases if they had prior arrests. (The median wealth of white households is 13 times higher than the median wealth of black households).
Especially in urban areas the majority of neighborhood public schools located in the black community provide a substandard education to a population already disadvantaged and are frequently characterized by community advocates as a school-to-prison-pipeline. (African-Americans represent 13% of the total U.S. population yet constitute 37% of the prison population). As a direct result of the multi-generational socioeconomic barriers unfortunately many of the young black males being arrested are stuck with all too often an incompetent and overwhelmed public defender that already has a high-caseload.
The criminal-justice system treats you better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent.
Do you really believe George Zimmerman would have gotten away with killing Trayvon Martin if he was represented by a public defender? Since being acquitted of murder in 2013, Mr. Zimmerman already has several other encounters with the police so why do so many Americans that tend to rush-to-judgment and habitually stereotype still believe he doesn't deserve their 'thug label'?
While in office, former Attorney General, Eric Holder went on-the-record expressing his disgust with the racial disparities often described as the 'two-tier', criminal justice system calling them shameful.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) nationwide, the rate at which black people are killed by law enforcement is three times higher than that of white people.
We can never change the wrongs of the past but to move forward in good faith we must as a nation create a future that consists of a shared prosperity wider-in-scope and engage in those tough conversations about race as a country for too long have been publicly avoided.
The community needs to do their part for a paradigm shift to occur and at the same time white society cannot expect more from the African American community yet provide less impactful programs and services that creates a legitimate path to self-sufficiency. No matter what race someone identifies with we all desire economic stability and a brighter future for our children.
Institutional racism consists of explicit or implicit biases that are rationalized by using 'deeply-flawed-logic' based upon a person's negative interaction with a member from a different race or a pure figment of one's imagination and drawing the conclusion members of that segment are all the same. This observation originates from the adults and unfortunately is passed down to their offspring from one generation to the next as soon as a child develops the ability to comprehend the nuances of adult social-interactions.
Racism is rooted in misunderstanding and born out of ignorance therefore laws by themselves will never change perceptions. In the post-civil-rights period when it comes to equality as a democracy that is supposed to be a champion of diversity for every step-forward are we now also taking two-steps backwards?